Special Brief Summary: The Caterpillar’s Edge

April, 2017


Addiction is the irrational pursuit of a likely harmful reward. There are two common properties to addictive temptations. First, they are reinforcing (i.e., position us to want more) and second, they are rewarding (i.e., induce comfort and pleasure). Many large and small companies and their leaders are stuck in their approach to planning and execution. Some are compulsive about rigid budgeting cycles, some are obsessed with existing business models, while others are focused on defending their turf. They are guided by old habits formed in an era when competition was more static. They are, by definition, addicted and pursuing a dangerous prize.

The new generation of CEOs suggests “stay hungry and stay foolish” (Steve Jobs, Apple); “Move fast and break things” (Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook); “most companies that are great at something don’t become great at new things, because they are afraid” (Reed Hastings, Netflix). However, established approaches to strategy and execution are intended to achieve certainty and minimize risk. They are designed to steer away from breaking things, subdue creative foolishness, and submit to fear. They are methodical, sequential, and measured. They are anchored in the past— in planning, in aspiration, and in execution. Strategies are shaped by leaders who surround themselves with other leaders (board members) who share the same addictions.

Change your thinking and you can change your future. There is a compounding effect of being wrong— break the cycle. Fear not what could happen if you leave your old ways (addictions) behind, fear what awaits if you don’t!